For a moment there, Fayetteville’s boys basketball team gave the Central Coosa faithful a scare.
The Cougars had previously beaten by 80 combined points in two regular-season matchups. So there was certainly a bit of overconfidence going into Tuesday’s Class 2A Area 8 semifinal.
That showed early on as Fayetteville busted out an early lead as the Cougars looked a bit lackadaisical to begin.
“I had to put the second team in to get the energy up,” Coosa coach Richard Bell said. “The (starters) weren’t putting out the intensity where it should be, so the second team brought a lot of energy. We needed that and it carried over.”
After the starters did get things back on track and jump out to a double-digit lead, Bell took them out to give other guys an opportunity. The starters did not play for the second half of the first quarter or the entire second quarter, and the guys off the bench clearly came to play. Their defense was on point as they stifled Fayetteville and that carried on to an 87-42 victory.
“We had a little talk with the first team at halftime and they came out in the third quarter and played a whole lot better,” Bell said. “Our young (starters) played to the competition level. I thought our energy at (Benjamin Russell) was real high; this time, they came down. Part of being a good basketball player is always playing hard no matter who your competition is.”
Not only did the bench players provide a much-needed spark, it was a good chance for everyone on the roster to get involved. Playing no starters in the second quarter, Central Coosa (12-9) didn’t miss a beat. The Cougars were all over the place defensively, finishing with 10 steals in the second quarter alone. They combined for 21 on the night.
“We haven’t pressed this whole year and we’re not a very good pressing team,” Bell said. “So (Tuesday) we did a lot of 2-1-2 press to get them working on that. We might need that sometime down the road, so that’s what we really focused on. We focused on that and doing a little high-low play.”
And every player contributed. Five Cougars finished in double figures and two others contributed seven points. Tre Butler led with 16 points while Xavier Moon came off the bench to score 14. Dequalon Thomas, Markus Sandlin and Quin Brooks split 30 evenly. Dawson Duncan led the Cougars with 10 rebounds and was three points shy of a double-double despite coming off the bench. Cory Sandlin, another bench player, had seven rebounds and Moon led the way with five steals.
“It’s good that everybody got a chance to play,” Bell said. “From here on out, we know it’s going to get a whole lot harder and some of those guys who have been with the program for a while might not get a chance to get in, so I’m glad they all got a chance to get on the floor.”
With the victory, Central Coosa advances to face Thorsby in the area championship on Thursday night. The Rebels were a 45-40 victor over Reeltown in the semifinals and both Thorsby and Coosa punched their tickets to sub-regionals regardless of how Thursday night turns out.
During the regular season, Central Coosa split with Thorsby, falling the first time, 64-52, but avenging the loss, 61-42, in their most recent meeting.
“They have a lot of seniors over there and I know they’re going to try to slow it down on us and keep the score about the 40s or the 50s,” Bell said. “So we gotta be patient with our shoots. We can’t make a lot of mistakes like we had (Tuesday) so we gotta really get it together between now and Thursday.”